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Gerontologist. 2019 Jan 9;59(1):69-77. doi: 10.1093/geront/gny044.

Internet Use and Preventive Health Behaviors Among Couples in Later Life: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study.

Author information

Department of Human Development and Family Studies, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
Department of Gerontology, University of Massachusetts Boston, Boston, Massachusetts.


Background and Objectives:

The aim of this study was to examine the link between internet use and preventive health behaviors. We focused on couples to examine whether there were cross-partner associations between internet use and preventive health behaviors.

Research Design and Methods:

The data for this study came from the 2010 and 2012 waves of the Health and Retirement Study and the sample consisted of 5,143 pairs of coupled-individuals. Preventive health behaviors included cancer screenings (mammogram and prostate tests), cholesterol tests, and flu shots. Logistic multilevel actor-partner interdependence models were employed to test the study hypotheses.


Internet use was associated with a higher likelihood of receiving prostate exams and cholesterol tests for husbands, net of demographic and health characteristics, and insurance status. We found that wives' internet use was associated with a higher likelihood of receiving flu shots and prostate exams for husbands, but husbands' internet use was not associated with wives' preventive health behaviors.

Discussion and Implications:

Research linking internet use and preventive health behaviors is important because such behaviors are associated not only with health of the older population but also with substantial reductions in health care expenditures. Our findings suggested that internet use of older adults is associated with their own preventive health behaviors, as well as their spouses' preventive health behaviors. Interventions and programs to facilitate older adults' preventive health behaviors should consider couple-based approaches.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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